The present study was undertaken to examine whether variations in endocannabinoid signaling in the dorsal periaqueductal gray (dPAG) are associated with baseline autonomic nerve activity, heart rate, and blood pressure. Blood pressure was recorded telemetrically in rats, and heart rate and power spectral analysis of heart rate variability were determined. Natural variations from animal to animal provided a range of baseline values for analysis. Transcript levels of endocannabinoid signaling components in the dPAG were analyzed, and endocannabinoid content and catabolic enzyme activity were measured. Higher baseline heart rate was associated with increased anandamide content and with decreased activity of the anandamide-hydrolyzing enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), and it was negatively correlated with transcript levels of both FAAH and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), a catabolic enzyme for 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Autonomic tone and heart rate, but not blood pressure, were correlated to levels of FAAH mRNA. In accordance with these data, exogenous anandamide in the dPAG of anesthetized rats increased heart rate. These data indicate that in the dPAG, anandamide, a FAAH-regulated lipid, contributes to regulation of baseline heart rate through influences on autonomic outflow.
- heart rate
- sympathetic nerve activity
- dorsal periaqueductal gray
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